Water footprint studies compiled for drinks giant Coca-Cola show agricultural water use dwarfs the firm’s own consumption and that of associated bottling plants.1
Coca-Cola has water efficiency, treatment and neutrality targets, but they apply only to water used in its own operations, not to its supply chain (ENDS Report 407, pp 11-12).
Water footprints are usually comprised of three figures. These represent the amount of rainwater taken from the soil, known as ‘green’ water; ‘blue’ water from lakes, rivers and irrigation systems; and ‘grey’ water, a measure of the water contaminated during a product’s creation.
Coca-Cola’s studies, published in September with NGO the Nature Conservancy, show the green and blue water used to grow sugar beet and other ingredients make up two-thirds of the 35-litre water footprint of a 0.5-litre bottle of Netherlands-made Coca-Cola. As the Netherlands is not water-stressed, this is not considered a problem.
Only 0.4 litres of the footprint is from Coca-Cola’s own operations. This is the water in the product itself. The rest of the water used during bottling is discounted because it goes to a sewage works and is returned to the environment.
Coca-Cola has also compiled footprints for orange juices sold in the US. For every litre of its fresh Simply Orange juice, sourced from Florida, 386 litres of green water are needed and 154 litres of blue water. The grey water footprint adds another 100 litres.
Meanwhile, the first sustainability report published by the European Federation of Bottled Waters shows bottled water has the lowest water and carbon footprint of any packaged food or drink.2 Unlike a similar study by Nestlé, published in the spring, it does not include figures for tap water for comparison.